“If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” Thomas Jefferson
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Feeding Critters on the Farm
I have said before that total self-sufficiency means that you produce all of your needs or as many as possible right on your land. This means producing your own livestock feed as well. This is one reason that we chose to to have goats rather than cows. It is much easier to produce feed for goats than it is to feed cows on a small acreage. But there are other animals around here that need feed as well. This year we have a large main garden and several smaller gardens. The smaller gardens are specifically for producing animal feed. I have already gone over how you can feed your chickens for practically nothing from the homestead, but I will go over how we are feeding others on the farm as well. For our rabbits we have a small garden that grows a variety of grasses and grains, such as oats, wheat, millet, bermuda, and flax. We also feed our rabbits fruit scraps from the kitchen. One must be cautious about introducing these things to a newly purchased rabbit that has had nothing but hay and pellets. They can develop diarrhea which is deadly to a rabbit. we cut fresh from this garden daily to feed the rabbits, and we are build some rabbit runs in the old garden that surrounds the rabbit house. The rabbits will have time outside and be able to browse the grasses growing there for them. In other words our rabbits free range as much as a domestic rabbit can be allowed to free range. With the addition of these fresh greens and fruit scraps our rabbits are eating very little amounts of pellets. They are still offered a complete pellet until we make sure that all of their nutritional needs are met by what we grow. We have noticed that the amount of pellets consumed has been steadily going down and now most of their diet is made up of what we grow right here specifically for them. There wasn't much to planting the rabbit garden or the rabbit yard, just some extra left over seed from other projects. However, this tiny investment has led us one step closer to total self-sufficiency. Now, onto the goats. Goats browse and we have lots for them to browse. This also is a benefit because they are not competing with the horses for the grass in the pasture. They browse the wild roses, blackberries, poison ivy, and small pine trees while the horses graze the grass. Have two different livestock in the same space drastically cuts down on feed costs. We are growing extra corn this year to supplement feed this winter. We also had some areas on the farm that were simply grass and not used for much of anything except running the lawnmower, those areas are now planted in oats for feed also. We will harvest the mature oats, and then prepare the left over oat grass for winter silage. The goats will also eat extras from the garden which we have intentionally planted.Many of the leftover garden plants will be chopped and prepared for winter silage as well. We have an abundance of pecans and many of these will be stored for animal feed as well for the winter. This winter we plan to greatly reduce our dependance on the feed store. The only caution I have to this is to do your research, introduce new items slowly and make sure that your are providing a complete nutrition before totally cutting out regular feed. Check out what the main ingredients in the feed are and grow those things. Don't compromise the health and nutrition of your livestock to save money, but do look for ways that you can provide the nutritional needs on your own.